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12/19/2012

Craig Newmark, Michael Brune, and Me: Recapping a Google Hangout

This past Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, the Sierra Club hosted a Google+ Hangout with Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune, craigslist and craigconnects founder Craig Newmark, and me, as the Director of Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, to discuss the value of getting outdoors for service members, veterans, and their families; and how we could better utilize social media to spread the message of our work and our programs to ensure broader community education and participation.

We took questions from a few partners, volunteers, and interested listeners and learned a great deal about many of the challenges and issues facing our military and veteran community. From Heather Ehle andProject Sanctuary, we learned how post traumatic stress can be more common in military spouses and caregivers than in military service members and the need for increased research on non-traditional treatments and strategies to coping that include outdoor recreation.

We were joined by Koby Langley, the senior adviser for strategic planning and outreach in the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, who asked us two questions about what the value proposition we were making about the outdoors to veterans and service members was, and how we were ensuring the military and veteran community knew about the work we were doing and how to get involved. The first step is through reaching out to your local Sierra Club outings group to see if there is something locally happening.

Boone Cutler, a prominent voice in the military / veteran community and popular talk show radio host voiced his appreciation for our work in getting veterans outside helped us answer Koby's question. Highlighting that in the outdoors, our warriors are able to be themselves without judgment and find the two things that in his view matter most to warriors: a mission, and a battle buddy. Boone spoke honestly, however, about perception issues in the war fighter community about the Sierra Club being viewed negatively.

Michael responded that the Sierra Club includes a wide range of people, from far right to far left, in many ways not unlike our military. At the Club, he continued, members and supporters are bound by the common cause that our public lands and our total environment, inclusive of clean air, clean water, and accessible lands, are what has been defended by military service and should continue to be an asset both in terms of outdoor recreation, and healthy air to breath and clean drinking water for service members, veterans, and all Americans.

Paul Wilson, a long time Sierra Club member, activist, and United States Marine who fought in Vietnam, seconded Michael's remarks and discussed his work in West Virginia on behalf of outdoor recreation and anti-mountain top removal work as being synonymous with his military service.

And what ties it all together? Well, that's why we had Craig on the line as well, to help us better understand how we can spread the message of how the outdoors can help shape a new mission and battle buddies to our returning warriors, a place of respite and connection for military families and spouses/caregivers, and an arena of continued community service for all. His lesson was simple: keep posting, keep posting, keep posting.

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